How do you know to believe if no one has ever believed in you?
After the publication of my second book, “Believe,” I was asked to read it to a group of inner city kids in Minneapolis. I’m not sure I like the term inner city. In the US, the term inner city has been used as a euphamism for lower income residential districts. I wasn’t labeled this as a kid, probably because I was white, but certainly, in terms of income, I was no different. Maybe the only difference between us was I had someone who believed in me. My mother.
When I finished reading the book to them, which ends, “I believe in you,” most of the kids were quiet, almost stunned. I looked around, hoping for some reaction. I looked directly at the largest boy in the group. I knew if I could get a response from him, the others might follow. I smiled in his direction. I kept smiling. He made eye contact, so I asked how he felt about the book, did he have any thoughts? He said, with no pity, no hesitation, “No one has ever told me they believed in me before.” The others nodded.
My heart wanted to cry, but I kept smiling. I was honored to be the first, I said, but I would not be the last. Once you hear it, it cannot be denied. Never unheard. Now you must live it.
We painted a mural for their school with the words below. They grabbed brushes confidently, loudly, boldly, and painted themselves a future.
We are born with our eyes and our hearts wide open. Innocence and youth make it so easy to believe…so easy to fall asleep in someone’s arms, to trust in smiles, to see animals float across the sky…to believe your summer will never end.This gift that we’re given – to not just hope – but truly believe in people and feeling and all these things under the sun…this ability to act like it all matters…where does that gift go? Why does time and experience have to wear it away, instead of building on it? At what point do we lose the courage to believe and then just start hoping? And why do some give up completely?Now, I am not the most courageous of sorts…but I’m not willing to give up this most precious gift, for me or for you. I know it won’t be easy, and I know it shouldn’t be. And I’m going to fight for it, every day. Because inside this beautiful struggle to believe, we are given the power to comfort, to heal, to inspire and to love.As I get older, I know my summers may not last forever, but I’m not going to stop believing in the chances that rise with each morning sun. And I know it matters…it always does…the things we do, the things we say, the lives we lead, and the hearts we touch.I want to see giraffes float by, instead of gray clouds. I want to feel the sun, deep inside of me, even when it isn’t shining. I have to believe in myself enough to have the courage to say “I love you,” and mean it…and have the strength to hear “I love you” and really feel it.I believe all this can happen for me, and I believe it can happen for you.
We hung this in their school. I pray it reached their inner-most souls.
Hang this on your heart today, “I believe in you.”